Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Team of Awfuls

Once again, a study "finds no evidence of widespread voter fraud" as reported by NBC.--in particular the kind that has so alarmed his Trumped-upness that he wants vigilantes patrolling certain polling places. " A study of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases in 50 states between 2000 and 2012 found the level of fraud was infinitesimal compared with the 146 million voters registered over the 12-year period. The analysis found only 10 cases of voter impersonation, the only kind of fraud that could be prevented by voter ID at the polls."

In fact the only fraud that was found on Friday was the Guardian's revelation of voting fraud currently being committed by Steve Bannon, head of the Trump campaign.  He registered in Florida giving a phony home address: a completely empty house.  Once caught by the Guardian, he changed his registration to the occupied single family home of a Brietbart writer where he also does not live.  He is liable to a felony charge.

It wasn't Bannon's only problem Friday.  Evidence surfaced of a police report documenting a domestic violence incident, and his ex-wife is on record that he threatened her in order to force her not to press charges.

Then on Saturday, a potent example of his anti-Semitism emerged.

This is only exhibit one of the attention the Trumpettes are getting lately.  In a WPost piece entitled Trump's repellent inner circle, former R speechwriter Michael Gerson writes:
Trump’s campaign has been a roiling, noxious, dysfunctional mess from the start, characterized by public feuds, subject to sudden leadership changes and unable to fulfill key functions (like actually having a campaign apparatus in key states). 

And Trump’s personnel selections have been both instructive and disastrous. Consider this list of Trump’s chosen: Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski had a brutal and demeaning style that resulted in a staff revolt, and his manhandling of a female reporter overshadowed the Trump campaign for weeks. Former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was paid lucrative consulting fees by foreign interests and resigned after reports that Ukraine anti-corruption investigators were scrutinizing millions in alleged payments there.

Longtime adviser Roger Stone is a crackpot conspiracy theorist who asserts that Bill and Hillary Clinton are “plausibly responsible” for the deaths of roughly 40 people and that Hillary Clinton should be “executed for murder.” Confidant Roger Ailes recently stepped down from his job at Fox News under a cloud of sexual harassment claims. And Steve Bannon, Trump’s new campaign chief executive, is known for his bullying tactics and for running a website (Breitbart News) that flirts with white nationalism.

To this team of awfuls, Trump just added the former aide to Chris Christie who was fired for being implicated in the Bridgegate scandal.  Welcome aboard, you'll fit right in here!

Then there's the question of what these folks actually do--in particular, Trump's supposed campaign manager Kellyanne Conway.  In an incisive piece, Josh Marshall maintains that what is known about what Conway does (travels with the Trump, gives lots of interviews including one with Rachel Maddow that got a lot of attention but not necessarily in a good way) isn't consistent with the actual job of campaign manager.  (And nobody, he says, seems to know what Bannon actually does.)  Marshall's conclusion: the Republican nominee for President has no campaign manager.  (His suggestion that these folks basically have their eye on their next career move is exactly my impression from the Conway/Maddow interview transcript.)

In the more interesting recent Trumpania, Managing Editor Robert Schlesinger of U.S. News explains Trump's crazed meanderings on immigration last week: I've got a theory to explain Donald Trump's adoption of word salad as his proposed policy on deportation of people in this country without legal permission: Maybe Donald Trump is incoherent on immigration because Donald Trump is incoherent. Maybe what he says doesn't make a lot of sense because he doesn't know what he's talking about."  The piece wraps around some good cartoons, too.

In fact-checking a Hillary ad, the WPost tracks down where in the world Trump products are made, and concludes, yeah, she's right--in at least 12 different countries.  And occasionally in the US.

On the media response to Clinton's speech calling out Trump and the Trumpettes, Ed Kilgore said it best: "Media False Equivalence Is Trump’s Best Friend in the Debate Over Racism: Clinton offered a detailed indictment. Trump replied with an insult. How’s that a draw?"

With the unchanging trend line so far for the presidential election, eyes turn to the future.  The NYTimes explains why Trump may be crippling the R party for a long time in the American West.  And Politico suggests that Rs are already plotting to hobble a Clinton presidency.

That Politico piece presupposes that Rs maintain control of both houses of Congress.  There seems to be a range of opinion these days on whether that's likely.  Some polls suggest that ticket-splitting will favor R candidates, and Dems didn't field their best candidates (not realizing the opportunities Trump presents, not a very complimentary argument.)  But others--like the Times and Josh Marshall--see the trend moving towards a slight Dem majority in the Senate.  The House is less likely but also at this point less readable.

Friday, August 26, 2016

National Visions

Thanks mostly to the Federal Arts Project in the 1930s (part of FDR's New Deal initiatives to fight the Great Depression), we have some iconic posters that celebrate aspects of American public life.

In celebration of American National Parks, the British-based Guardian has reproduced poster images about the parks, most from the 1930s. Such as the ones I've showcased here.

 The Federal Arts Project, like the Theatre and Writers projects, was designed primarily to employ people, but they left an astonishing legacy, even though none was permitted to last very long.  For one thing, they helped start careers (or kept those careers from foundering) in American arts and letters that lasted for decades. Many famous names worked in these projects.

  The Federal Theatre Project is remembered for innovation, daring and diminishing the distance between theatre and a popular audience.  Professional theatre was almost all in New York until FTP, which seeded the regional theatres of today across America.   It was America's only attempt at subsidized theatre that most civilized countries now find essential, and it worked.  The Writers' Project produced guides to American states that were prized for decades afterwards.

From the Arts Project we have posters such as these, bold designs that are still vibrant.  This was one federal program serving another, and both essential to our national well-being.

Also on this centennial, Grist has a series on National Parks.  This article is an interview with the current National Parks Service director, focused primarily on the challenges presented by the climate crisis, which Jarvis calls "Fundamentally, it’s the biggest challenge the National Park Service has ever faced. I put it there because it fundamentally changes the way we are going to manage our national parks into the future. It’s making us rethink the whole paradigm under which we manage. That makes it really complicated."

But he's been thinking about climate change since the 1980s, and the National Park Service has been seriously planning on ways to deal with its effects for a decade.  That's part of being true public servants and stewards--deal with the realities despite the politics.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Your Climate Crisis, Effective Immediately

U.S. National Parks--and the National Park Service--turn 100 years old today.  The most widely reprinted and excerpted article marking this occasion earlier this week was from the Guardian: Climate change will mean the end of national parks as we know them.

wildfire in a parched Yosemite
If the causes of the climate crisis aren't adequately addressed soon, there may be no glaciers in Glacier National Park, no Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park, as President Obama pointed out in June in a visit to Yosemite, where its famous mile-wide glacier is nearly gone.  Rising tides could soon threaten the Statue of Liberty. "That’s not the America I want to pass on to the next generation,” he said.

But as this article points out, thanks to cascading effects of heating and sea rise already underway, parks are already seeing severe damage, and more is on the way. "Change, however, is inevitable no matter how quickly greenhouse gas emissions are cut. An NPS study from 2014 found four in five of America’s national parks are now at the “extreme end” of temperature variables charted since 1901.

“We are starting to see things spiral away now,” said Gregor Schuurman, an ecologist at the NPS climate change response program. “We are going to look back at this time and actually think it was a calm period. And then people will start asking questions about what we were doing about the situation.”

This article details some of the damage, to ecosystems, species and historical monuments and features.  Global heating is attacking our cultural memory, our natural context, and ultimately may well challenge our ability to survive as a civilization and perhaps as a species.

Because the emphasis is understandably on addressing causes so global heating may not become utterly catastrophic, there's less attention to the effects that will need to be addressed---beginning now and into coming decades.  For example, the New York Times' eye-opening maps showing the increasing number of 100 degree plus days across the US bases its estimates on greenhouse gases pollution continuing at current rates.  However, some significant rise is built-in for the next couple of decades at least, and cities have to prepare to deal with them.

Under any scenario--from continued increasing carbon pollution to declining emissions towards Paris agreement goals, to even a sudden total carbon-neutral world--the nature of some problems can be predicted, if not the severity or extent.

Some ongoing crises, exacerbated and accelerated by the climate crisis, include species extinction.  Climate crisis-assisted drought in California is killing millions of old trees.  Climate crisis-assisted flooding and sea-level rise will cause the shape of cities and communities to be changed.   Relocation of entire settlements now underway in Alaska are the harbinger in some places.  Even a study that premises unabated carbon pollution and forecasts that some 2 million homes in America could be underwater by 2100, can suggest where the most vulnerable areas are in any scenario before then.

Also in the Guardian last week was an article about an anthrax epidemic in Russia that was the direct result of climate crisis thawing releasing old pathogens, and other such possibilities.  This is only a more exotic reason why a founding member of Doctors Without Borders said this week that the climate crisis is "the greatest global health threat of the 21st century."

Public health is a front line in addressing climate crisis effects.  Here as elsewhere, leadership on the national level is severely lacking.  We don't have to look any further than the US Congress failing to appropriate funds to deal with Zika virus outbreaks, the most fundamental responsibility that national legislators have.  Only by moving money from other vital programs has President Obama and public health officials at every level been able to address Zika as much as they have.

Whatever national leaders do or don't do, we must look to those skilled and dedicated people on levels below--regional, state, metropolitan area, community--to patiently and steadfastly address these problems.

Thanks to the new regime at FEMA instituted by President Obama, effective federal help was immediate in Louisiana for their flood, unlike Katrina almost exactly 11 years before.  "You are not alone," President Obama said in Louisiana. "The whole country is going to support you and help you until we get folks back in their homes, and lives are rebuilt," Obama vowed.

This is what federal response to emergencies should look like, and must be, non-political. "I guarantee you nobody on this block, none of those first responders, nobody gives a hoot whether you’re Democrat or Republican," the President of the United States said. “What they care about is making sure they’re getting the drywall out, getting the carpet out, there’s not any mold building, they got some contractors in here and they start rebuilding as soon as possible. That’s what they care about, and that’s what I care about.”

But it doesn't always happen that way--and multiple climate crisis effects simultaneously, less dramatically present than a flood, pose other challenges.  Response often depends on members of local communities--as we've seen in Louisiana and in other recent disasters.  Places where community ties as well as empathy and personal character--where "you'd do the same for me"--are the guiding lights.

It is on the spot also that dedicated public servants such as first responders, medical and public health workers are the crucial interface. They have the skills and dedication as well as the will. Which brings us back to the National Park Service.

As USA Today writesToday, more than 20,000 men and women employed with the National Park Service, alongside 221,000 volunteers, continue the charge and share “a passion for caring for the nation's special places and sharing their stories” - all 412 national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House.

Some 307 million people visited these places last year, and they physically experienced elements of cultural heritage in their natural context, as well as special examples of our greater context of nature.  All of this is what's at stake in our response to the climate crisis, both the causes and effects.

The National Park Service is already on the front line of the climate crisis, as the Guardian article illustrates. Such focused, dedicated public service is a template for what that response might look like elsewhere, for a long time to come. Effective immediately.

The Donald Chronicles: Make America Hate

On Thursday Hillary Clinton made an impressive speech, outlining the extremist threat of our Homegrown Hitler, introducing those few people that haven't read about it here to "alt.right."

Here's the transcript (annotated at the WPost, though footnoted is more accurate--the factual assertions are accurate.) Also impressive in the few seconds of the speech I heard on NPR is that Clinton didn't shout it, as she too often does.  It sounds like a news report.

Since it hits many points previously noted here, I won't repeat them, but this point from the speech can't be made too often:

Parents and teachers are already worried about what they’re calling the “Trump Effect.” They report that bullying and harassment are on the rise in our schools, especially targeting students of color, Muslims, and immigrants. At a recent high school basketball game in Indiana, white students held up Trump signs and taunted Latino players on the opposing team with chants of “Build the wall!” and “Speak English.” After a similar incident in Iowa, one frustrated school principal said, “They see it in a presidential campaign and now it's OK for everyone to say this.”

Polls: A new national poll of likely voters from Quinnipiac University gives Hillary a ten point lead, 51-41.  A WPost article goes into the specific numbers to show how damaging to the Donald it is, as Clinton's numbers increased since the Q poll in June.  A national poll of registered voters by PRRI has Hillary ahead by 13 points.

In the NY Times, Michiko Kakutani reviews  books about Trump and observes:

"To read a stack of new and reissued books about Mr. Trump, as well as a bunch of his own works, is to be plunged into a kind of Bizarro World version of Dante’s “Inferno,” where arrogance, acquisitiveness and the sowing of discord are not sins, but attributes of leadership; a place where lies, contradictions and outrageous remarks spring up in such thickets that the sort of moral exhaustion associated with bad soap operas quickly threatens to ensue.

That the subject of these books is not a fictional character but the Republican nominee for president can only remind the reader of Philip Roth’s observation, made more than 50 years ago, that American reality is so stupefying, “so weird and astonishing,” that it poses an embarrassment to the novelist’s “meager imagination.”

I've thought of that Roth essay (which was basically about Nixon) over the years.  It's been proven so many times that today it seems quaint.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Willed Ignorance

Dept. of He Who Lives By the Liar Sword:  T. Goddard reports that independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin told Business Insider that Donald Trump is a "fragile man and a fragile campaign," that “I’m hearing from people inside his campaign that there are times now when he hides in his apartment and doesn’t meet with any people. When he campaigns he goes out to a place he has to fly back home to New York... I’m not sure the RNC can continue to support him given his weakness as a man and as a politician and as a candidate for the presidency.”

Notice that McMullin uses the same kind of vague attribution that Trump does, although Trump is usually even vaguer (i.e. "some people say," "a lot of people are saying," and even "everybody says.")  Now somebody has to circulate videos of Trump appearing to fall, appearing to have a seizure (probably not difficult) etc. and see how he takes it.

On the rabid right Donald-enabled campaign to question Hillary's health, there's a powerful piece in Newsweek on the damage fostered by these ignoramuses like Sean Hannity to understanding real epileptic seizures, and the harm such expressions of ignorance do to those suffering from epilepsy (including the author of the article, and Chief Justice Roberts.)  Such prejudice is consistent with racism and other suspicion of the alien, the Other, as defined by those who consider themselves the standard for the acceptable, or in this case, real Americans.  It starts with willed ignorance.

In addition to not seeing Trump's tax returns, college grades, medical records or birth certificate, we also haven't seen tens of thousands of his emails.  The Clinton campaign pushed back at accusations of influence peddling, but the real eye-opener might be the emails of say, Mitch McConnell, or really any member of Congress to see how many of their big contributors get access.  Clinton made her own case on CNN.

The pros and cons of the Clinton case are reasonably discussed by Eric Levitz.  Experts polled by USA Today state the obvious: no evidence has proven or journalist even stated that Clinton gave favors to foundation donors--at worst it was access.  But even that isn't proven.  Vox exposes more flaws in the sensationalistic AP story that started it all: "I wouldn’t be surprised if there is someone, somewhere whom Clinton met with whom she wouldn’t have met with had that person not been a Clinton donor of some kind. But what we know is that despite very intensive media scrutiny of the Clinton Foundation, we don’t have hard evidence of any kind of corrupt activity. That’s the story."

The Donald and the Book Biz: In addition to the other documented spending of campaign funds on his businesses, family and associates, Trump bought lots of copies of his own book, at full retail, thus paying himself royalties with campaign funds.  Which might be illegal and is certainly unnecessary, even if he gave the books away.  Through their publishers, authors get discounts on their books, so there was no reason to pay retail unless he wanted the royalties.  Or the more typical reason--to inflate book sales and make it look more popular than it is.

Dana Milbank at WPost illustrates just how deep a sleaze Trump's new campaign chief is, the #1 member of Homegrown Hitler Youth, Breitbart's brightest Stephen Bannon.

On Trump's confused and confusing attempts to mollify minorities, Jonathan Chiat notes:The main difficulty Trump faces in dispelling the impression that he is a racist is that Trump is, in fact, a gigantic racist.  At best, these attempts are another example of willed ignorance--Trump never lets reality stand in the way of his trollish assertions.

On the brighter side, Ed Kilgore suggests the Supreme Court is on the cusp of a liberal revolution, and the NY Times' Upshot concludes that at this moment Dems have a 60% chance of winning the Senate.  Every electoral map I've seen continues to show Clinton comfortably over the 270 needed to win the presidency. The conservative (and anti-Trump) National Review concludes that the Donald now has no "credible path to the presidency."

Polls:  Two new polls show Clinton a couple of points ahead in North Carolina--and one poll shows Trump ahead by only two points in South Carolina.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: The Troll Candidate

Trump as troll was referenced in the Guardian piece I previously cited.  Here's an excerpt from Bruce Sterling's annual state of the world posts at The Well in 1/16, which links Putin and Trump (months before this became a thing) while defining the essence and practice of trolling (the bolding and stuff in red are my only contribution):

"Putin knows there's no way to justify Crimea, so he's got a two-fold strategy. A, just hang on until the adversaries get tired of complaining and sanctioning, and B, undermine political will with just an amazing tidal wave of Kremlin-troll bullshit. Just use
cheap digital media to lie, distort, deny, dismiss, around the clock, methodically, endlessly. The point to trolling is not to win the argument. It's to muddy the waters so much that nobody can drink.

*With previous forms of media, if you blatantly lied all the time
you'd be shamed out of it by the gatekeepers, but if there are no
media gatekeepers, then you can troll. [Hence Trump's war on the media, at least partly.  They're calling him on lies, as gatekeepers.]It's information warfare under conditions of modern Internet Counterrevolution.

*You try to keep as much order in your local media as you can, and
then you recruit network foot soldiers to hand-throw dirt-bombs into
everybody else's media. You won't convince them that your course is
just and right (because it's not), but maybe you can paralyze their
political will. Get inside the ol' OODA Loop there; disrupt the
adversary's ability to observe, orient, decide and act.

*I think that describes what Putin is doing, and it's not stunningly
weird or a failure on our part to sympathize with him. The guy's
from the intelligence services. Spooks by their nature are very
keen on media dirty-tricks, every spook apparatus does at least some
of it. He's got plenty of ardent neo-nationalist Russians to help
him troll; he doesn't have to fling the mud personally.

*What's different nowadays derives from the current structure of
media. This isn't 1955, you can't jam Radio Free Europe. But maybe
you can just fill up the airwaves with gaudy noise, lots of
meme-style chaff and smoke-bombs. Just throw troll-spaghetti in all
directions, see if anything sticks. You're not seeking tender
understanding from Americans, it's not a charm-offensive. It's the
new "Troll-State" approach. [On a macro level it's like the trolls that discourage actual discussion in comments sections, and ultimately, discourage participation.  I used to participate, in a few places, but now, never.]

*I never saw it done quite like this before, but I guess some
nation had to try it. It's like climate-denialism, basically.
However, instead of being run out of K-Street by Exxon-Mobil and the
coal interests to deter legislation, it's run from the Kremlin to
consolidate gains and deter the spread of a shooting-war.

*It's very contemporary. Donald Trump gets it. Trump and Putin
quite admire one another: they both think they know what it takes
nowadays, and that they've got plenty of it. Trump is the Troll
Candidate."

In this context it's significant that Trump's campaign is now a subsidiary of Breitbart.com, where he was praised as "king of trolling his critics." 

Later in the day addenda: NBC  weekly tracking poll of registered voters has Clinton at 50% Trump 42%. Her lead drops to 5 pts. with the other two candidates, although third partiers usually poll far better than they finish.

Florida: Clinton 52%, Trump 38% (Saint Leo University)

The WPost Morning Plum (after an interesting analysis of Trump's latest meanderings on immigration) :A new Roanoke College poll finds that Clinton now leads Trump by 55-36 in Virginia, and leads 48-32 in the four-way contest. Note this: Clinton was preferred by likely voters to Trump on a variety of issues, including the economy (50-43), terrorism (55-38), health care (57-33), race relations (66-21), immigration (56-36), foreign policy (64-28), and firearms policy (47-43)….Clinton was also seen as a having a temperament that is fitting for president (72) compared to 28 percent for Trump. Remarkable to see Clinton leading on guns in Virginia."

The Post also reports that: Through July, Trump's campaign has spent just shy of $7.7 million on Trump-branded products, including reimbursements to Trump-named surrogates."  This includes rent of offices in Trump Tower paid back to Trump--a rent that he quintupled in July, once campaign donations started coming in.  

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Follow the Money

The Trumpettes seized the media initiative Monday with a cascade of extreme reactions to the Clinton Foundation and recent email releases.  A counter-charge issued by Clinton campaign chair John Podesta did not get the same play.

"The Foundation has already laid out the unprecedented steps the charity will take if Hillary Clinton becomes president,” campaign chairman John Podesta said in a statement. “Donald Trump needs to come clean with voters about his complex network of for-profit businesses that are hundreds of millions of dollars in debt to big banks, including the state-owned Bank of China, and other business groups with ties to the Kremlin.”

Some of the potentially much greater problems with Trump enterprises were suggested in an investigative piece released Sunday by the New York Times:

But an investigation by The New York Times into the financial maze of Mr. Trump’s real estate holdings in the United States reveals that companies he owns have at least $650 million in debt — twice the amount than can be gleaned from public filings he has made as part of his bid for the White House. The Times’s inquiry also found that Mr. Trump’s fortunes depend deeply on a wide array of financial backers, including one he has cited in attacks during his campaign.

For example, an office building on Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, of which Mr. Trump is part owner, carries a $950 million loan. Among the lenders: the Bank of China, one of the largest banks in a country that Mr. Trump has railed against as an economic foe of the United States, and Goldman Sachs, a financial institution he has said controls Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, after it paid her $675,000 in speaking fees.

Beyond finding that companies owned by Mr. Trump had debts of at least $650 million, The Times discovered that a substantial portion of his wealth is tied up in three passive partnerships that owe an additional $2 billion to a string of lenders, including those that hold the loan on the Avenue of the Americas building."

The Times emphasized that the nature and extent of Trump's financial entanglements are not fully known, but that they present economic and foreign policy implications for a presidential candidate.  From what just this article reveals, Trump has a far greater problem that Clinton in matters of serious if not critical conflict of interest and potential criminality.

Perhaps it is partly as I feared, that the media needs to swing the narrative back to Clinton, because there was little follow-up to the Times piece, or prominence given to increasing calls for Trump to do what all other presidential candidates since 1976 have done, and release his tax returns.  In Trump's case this is more than financial disclosure--it is disclosure of potentially grave conflicts of interest regarding Russia and China, for example.

Trump's known indebtedness moreover raises potentially more conflicts, as do the many unknowns about his business dealings.  For example, the Times:"And in some cases, the identities of his business partners are obscured behind limited liability companies — raising the prospect of a president with unknown business ties."

While Trump brazenly demands that the Clinton charitable organization be shut down, he offers no information about his own entanglements, nor any plan for what he would do if elected to ensure he would have no financial conflicts of interest.  Trump must be held accountable for this, and quickly.

In other Trumped-Up matters, the Guardian presents a guide on dealing with Trump's rhetoric derived from techniques developed to deal with Internet trolls.

As just another indication of the nature of the Homegrown Hitler Youth, from the Associated Press:

Donald Trump's paid campaign staffers have declared on their personal social media accounts that Muslims are unfit to be U.S. citizens, mocked how Mexicans talk, called for Secretary of State John Kerry to be hanged and stated their readiness for a possible civil war, according to a review by The Associated Press of their postings.

The AP examined the social media feeds of more than 50 current and former campaign employees who helped propel Trump through the primary elections. The campaign has employed a mix of veteran political operatives and outsiders. Most come across as dedicated, enthusiastic partisans, but at least seven expressed views that were overtly racially charged, supportive of violent actions or broadly hostile to Muslims."


Since foreign policy experts of both parties--including the most dubious--are staying away from Trump while warning that he's dangerous, where might the Donald look for foreign policy advice?  One place apparently is from the rabid right crazy Michelle Bachmann.  Which, given Trump's recent pronouncements, figures.

But foreign policy experts and political operatives aren't the only professionals shunning Trump. A survey by National Association for Business Economics find 55% believe Hillary Clinton would do the best job managing the economy as President, while Trump didn't even come in second place.  Libertarian Gary Johnson got 15% of their votes, while Trump got 14%.

On a Monday night talk show, Hillary brushed off the Trumped-Up health charges as whacky, while CNN tells the story of the "healther" sequel to the birther conspiracy.

Meanwhile, an Oklahoma perspective on the GOP-backed laws all over the country designed to thwart minority voting, which includes Native Americans.  Who, by the way, aren't even immigrants.

 And Trump's continuing scaremongering about voter fraud and calls for his supporters to watch for it (which he repeated on Monday night, while calling American cities run by Democrats more dangerous than Iraq and Afghanistan), and with fewer federal observers of possible voter intimidation, a civil rights group is calling for expanded international election monitoring in the U.S.

A confluence of factors," the civil rights group said, has made racial discrimination in voting a greater threat than at any time in recent history.

"The unprecedented weakening of the Voting Rights Act has led to a tidal wave of voter discrimination efforts nationwide and has required the United States to drastically scale back its own election monitoring program," wrote Wade Henderson and Nancy Zirkin, president and vice president respectively of the Washington, D.C.-based Leadership Conference [on Civil and Human Rights]."

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Demagoguery Fatigue

Despite shakeups among the Trumpettes (with the second shoe falling today as superceded chair Paul Manafort resigned, just ahead of possible indictment for failing to report millions from Russia) the campaign narrative didn't change this week, because the polls didn't.

The Pew poll, which shows Hillary's lead shrinking since June, suggests the narrative might shift next week. But the fundamentals remain with Clinton: ads, expertise, personnel, ground game; in general, a campaign structure.  The question becomes how big might she win, afffecting Senate and even House majorities.

But that's not to say there weren't revealing moments.  One sits just beneath major notice: the hypocrisy at the heart of the Trump campaign's attacks on Hillary's health.

The background is the rabid right conspiracy theory nonsense about various dark disorders Hillary is supposed to have.  While Trump himself has so far only complained of her low energy (with dog whistle signal referring to the alt-right narrative), his crazy spokesperson Katrina Pierson, who previously asserted that President Obama started the Afghan war (though he was a state senator at the time), went public with one of the alt-right assertions, that Hillary has dysphasia resulting from her concussion, a charge that the WPost decorously calls a "counterfactual."

But the most interesting piece on this topic is by Kurt Eichenwald at Newsweek, who not only exposes the Trumpeted lies about Hillary's health but makes a convincing case that the doctor's letter extolling Trump's health is a fake.  That is, it was written by Trump or his campaign, and not the doctor who signed it.  And, as he deconstructs it, the letter isn't a very credible fake at that.

Speaking of which, it's Friday: time for the Guardian's "The lies Trump told this week."  Most of these are lies Trump told about his own past positions.

The "small" lies, the big lies.  The first Trump TV was unveiled, which Greg Sargent at WPost described as "ugly and dishonest," pretty much in the spirit of his primary ads."In one respect, the new ad also goes further in its demagoguery than the original GOP primary ad did — it claims that the border is “open.” Broadly speaking, the new Trump ad echoes some of the ugliest elements of the picture Trump’s convention speech painted of what ails America and what must be done about it — a speech that may have further alienated some of the voter groups he needs to expand his appeal among if he is to turn around his slide."

The current media narrative may have gone about as far as it can go this week, especially with contentions by Michael Moore and others that Trump isn't really trying to win the presidency, and this New Yorker piece, which suggests his goal is actually to create a new cable news network.

If polls tighten even slightly in the next week or so, it will likely be enough to change the narrative, because, well, the same story gets boring and media interest thrives on shifting plots, dramatic developments and suspense.  With its tiny shifts in tone at the end of the week, the Trump campaign may be counting on this sensitivity to a possible new narrative.  We'll see.

Late update: Reuters poll shows Clinton maintaining lead, 8 pts. among likely voters. This comports with the earlier NBC's tracking poll on Thursday that showed Clinton's 9 pt. lead unchanged from the week before.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Reality

What is reality?  For some in southern California, a monstrous fire trumps Trump.  In areas of Louisiana, the worst flooding since Katrina has resulted from rains that were off the charts--where 20 inches would constitute a 1,000 year storm, they got 30 inches.   According to the Red Cross, it is the worst natural disaster in the US since Sandy in 2012.  I doubt Hillary's emails matter there.

Weather tends to be background reality, but when it hits extremes, it moves up: it has costs and long consequences.  Sometimes it moves from background to consequential over time, as in heat waves or droughts or weeks of rain and storms: it requires different planning, affects activities and "productivity," and may move back and forth from a subliminal, mammalian threat, to a conscious danger.

It's been very hot and humid this month in the eastern U.S., in London, and elsewhere.  Now the northwest is experiencing intense heat.  Forecast for Ashland, Oregon (where the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is humming) was 106F today, 108 tomorrow.  Even the southern Oregon coast is not exempt--temps there forecast to nudge 90F.  (So far our fog is still protecting us on our far northern CA coastal strip.)

All of this is part of the predicted climate crisis pattern, only now it's not prediction anymore.  It's reality.

According to Jeff Masters at Weather Underground: Global mean temperatures in July 2016 were the warmest on record not just for July, but for any month dating to the late 1800s, according to four separate newly-released analyses.

 A state of the climate report issued by NOAA Wednesday said that July 2016 was Earth's warmest month in records dating to 1880... NOAA said that July 2016 also marked the 15th consecutive warmest month on record for the globe. That is the longest stretch of months in a row that a global temperature record has been set in their dataset."

Evaluating the whole of 2015, scientists saw the unmistakable evidence of the climate crisis rushing into the present.  CBSEarth's fever got worse last year, breaking dozens of climate records, scientists said in a massive report nicknamed the annual physical for the planet.

After detailing the research and its conclusions, the report includes the quote:"This impacts people. This is real life," said NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden...


There are very great differences between what the presidential candidates are poised to do about the climate crisis, and that's a critical part of the decision ahead. More on that in a later post, but for now, I want to stick with this theme of reality and how we are ignoring it so irrationally, clinging to our more familiar foci of attention.

Extreme weather can kill people and destroy homes.  The more frequent bouts of extreme heat will have longer term consequences.  And the effects of sea level rise, already displacing entire communities permanently, will continue to accelerate.

In a Washington Post piece on these matters:“You’d find no scientist would disagree with the fact that a changing climate is and will continue to put people out of their homes,” said Greg Holland, a hurricane and climate expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Holland said that far and away the most obvious reason for this is rising seas swallowing coastal zones, as in the case of Shishmaref. “As far as sea level rise is concerned, there’s zero doubt about it,” he said.

Though governments are taking meaningful steps to address the climate crisis, including the Obama administration in the US as well as states like California, they may not be enough.  As the Guardian reported, Leading climate scientists have warned that the Earth is perilously close to breaking through a 1.5C upper limit for global warming, only eight months after the target was set" in the Paris agreement.

Those who are facing these realities are calling for increasingly extreme measures.  Bill McKibben has a new essay in the New Republic calling for a national effort as strenuous as World War II mobilization to address the climate crisis.  (I also plan to critique this in more detail soon.)  And in an assertion I've been anticipating, a philosopher questions whether having children is morally justified, given the climate crisis future.

Why there is this disconnect between the most knowledgeable and the public discourse is a question with many possible answers. (Some form of collective, societal psychological despair or grief expressed as denial is explored in this Scientific American article, and I'm inclined to explorations in this direction.) Nor is this kind of disconnect unprecedented.  

But for the moment I only want to speculate on what the current political campaign might look like if we were really facing the climate crisis reality.

It would probably mean that at least one of the candidates was talking often and in great detail about the climate crisis as the greatest challenge facing the nation.  That candidate would describe in a series of speeches what is happening, what the causes are, what the effects are now and are likely to be, all in specific terms, and not in the unfortunate jargon that has distanced the realities of the climate crisis from the public in general.

That candidate would relate these efforts to other ecological crises that threaten to make human civilization much more difficult to support.  That candidate would show how efforts to address the climate crisis can also address other economic and social problems in beneficial ways.

That candidate would suggest, in every stump speech, what needs to be done.  The other candidate would then be forced to talk about it.  If that candidate were as sensible as most national politicians of both parties were on this subject even 15 years ago, the debate could be about the most realistic and effective ways of addressing the causes and the effects of the climate crisis.

Right now, presidential debate preparation would be focusing on climate related issues.  Members of Congress and officeholders at state and local levels would announce support for one or the other of the major candidates largely based on their climate crisis analysis and plans.  News organizations would be regularly interviewing scientists on the plausibility and efficacy of each candidate's plans. Voters would be engaged, offering opinions, demanding answers in every town hall opportunity.

All of this should have happened in prior campaigns, but certainly it's a reasonable expectation that it would be happening this year, given the realities.

But it's not.  And that's the reality.    

Homegrown Hitler Chronicles: More Hate Ahead

E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post:

"If you thought the old Donald Trump campaign was wild and crazy, just wait for the new Trump campaign now that Breitbart’s Steve Bannon has taken over as chief executive. The new leadership — with Bannon and pollster Kellyanne Conway displacing Paul Manafort of the Ukrainian Connection at the top of the heap — is likely to steer Trump even more in the direction of the European far right. It also tells you something that Bannon sees Sarah Palin, about whom he made a laudatory documentary, as a model for anti-establishment politics.

Judging from Bannon’s history, Trump’s campaign will become even harsher in its attacks on Hillary Clinton and work hard to insinuate anti-Clinton stories into the mainstream media."

But as everything associated with Trump and his Trumpettes, this has possible significance for the future beyond Trump.  As Ben Shapiro , former Breitbart writer, in WPost notes, the installation of Steve Bannon at the top of the Trump campaign means that the most rabid of the rabid right--the so-called alt-right that has supplanted the Tea Party--is inside the Republican establishment.

What characterizes the alt-right, according to Shapiro, is its public support for racism and xenophobia. "The takeover, now a virtual fait accompli, represents the dangerous seizure of the conservative movement by the alt-right. Constitutional conservatives can’t stand the alt-right. Conservatives — real conservatives — believe that only a philosophy of limited government, God-given rights and personal responsibility can save the country. And that creed is not bound to race or ethnicity. Broad swaths of the alt-right, by contrast, believe in a creed-free, race-based nationalism, insisting, among other things, that birth on American soil confers superiority." 

Shapiro's column details reactions from alt-rightists to him personally, some of them identical to the hate spewed by the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s.

A New Yorker piece describes Trump's history of racism, which has focused recently on Latinos and Muslims but in the past has victimized African Americans. In my view it isn't this past that African American voters are thinking of, however, when they give him 1% support at best.  It's his racist innuendos aimed at President Obama.

Ed Kilgore shows how GOP efforts to suppress minority voters is moving to the local level.  Such efforts in Florida in 2000 cost Al Gore the presidency.

And in Siberian Candidate news, Michael McFaul in WPost: Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to see Donald Trump become the next president of the United States. To that end, Putin and his government have taken unprecedented steps to influence our electoral process to help the Republican Party’s nominee."  The reasons he gives are general: Trump's isolationism and likely chaotic administration domestically will provide Russia the openings to do what it wants, in Ukraine for example.  

Polling news: The NY Times examines internal numbers in recent polls to show that Trump is losing core support among white men, his only demographic lead.  Several recent analyses of the electoral map (NBC, Sabato) conclude that Clinton right now has enough likely electoral votes to win the presidency.  Add states where she is leading and it's a landslide.

However, there is one troublesome new poll, and it is the gold standard Pew Poll.  It shows Hillary ahead by 4 points nationally, which is down from her 9 point lead in June--contradicting the trendline of other polls from the Dem convention until now.  The poll is structured a bit differently, adding Jill Stein (Green Party) but that doesn't entirely account for the difference.  Whether this poll is an outlyer or the first in a different trend direction remains to be seen.

Trump finished the day on an apology tour, trying to redefine his message in a more palatable way.  The Politico report on this speech, easily spending as much time debunking as describing it, suggests his credibility may be too shredded---at least unless and until the polls turn in his direction.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Homegrown Hitler Chronicles: Our Trump in Washington

The march of our homegrown Hitler continues, in lockstep with his ally and America's adversary, Russia.  Trump gets his first national security briefing today, information that now seems likely to be passed on to the Russians.  In advance of the briefing, Eric Levitz reports, Trump told Faux News he doesn't trust US intelligence agencies and he's bringing his own advisor with him to the briefing:

"former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn. “He’s been a real fan of mine and defender of mine and he’s a terrific guy, a terrific general — tough, smart,” Trump said of the Putin-friendly former general — who co-authored a book with America’s foremost defender of Italian fascism — in an interview with Fox News. “He wants to make sure the right people are coming into our country, not the people that we’re probably taking in right now.”

Frank Rich comments on recent revelations about Trump's campaign chief (who he just demoted) and his ugly and illegal ties to Russian oligarchs, and on Trump himself as a national security risk.  He faults Republican leaders for ignoring this tangible threat: "A party that during the Joe McCarthy era prided itself on rooting secret Communists (real or imagined) out of the federal government is now looking the other way when its own presidential candidate and one of his top operatives are in open, even proud, cahoots with a Kremlin hostile to America’s national interests."

Ed Kilgore at New York flags a reason that Trump's voter intimidation strategy may work, thanks to a Supreme Court decision: But as Julie Fernandes recently pointed out at Democracy, the decision also eliminated the basis for a separate Justice Department program providing for federal election observers in Section 4 jurisdictions. So there will not be any this November, for the first time in 50 years.

The main function of these federal observers was to deter by their presence and, if necessary, report on efforts to intimidate or otherwise discourage voting by minority citizens."

David Remnick in the New Yorker:

"You have to say this for the crooked demagogues and reactionary populists of the American past: they may have stirred the bitter soup of nativist resentment with as much zeal as Donald J. Trump, but their family counselors did not take time out from politics to cruise the Aegean on a plutocrat’s yacht; their rhetorical counselors did not attempt, for decades, to instill fear in their employees through the most squalid sort of sexual terror; and their political counselors never worked in the interest of Slavic autocrats. Oh, Father Coughlin, we hardly knew ye!

Day by day, news bulletin by news bulletin, the Trump campaign spirals to new depths of strategic confusion and moral chaos. On the escalators at Trump Tower, the direction is always down, down, down."

Letting Hitler Be Hitler

The Washington Post:

Donald Trump, following weeks of gnawing agitation over his advisers’ attempts to temper his style, moved late Tuesday to overhaul his struggling campaign by rebuffing those efforts and elevating two longtime associates who have encouraged his combative populism.

Stephen Bannon, a former banker who runs the influential conservative outlet Breitbart News and is known for his fiercely anti-establishment politics, has been named the Trump campaign’s chief executive. Kellyanne Conway, a veteran Republican pollster who has been close to Trump for years, will assume the role of campaign manager.

Trump’s stunning decision effectively ended the months-long push by campaign chairman Paul Manafort to moderate Trump’s presentation and pitch for the general election. And it sent a signal, perhaps more clear than ever, that the real-estate mogul intends to finish this race on his own terms, with friends who share his instincts at his side.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Internet of Remembering

Trinidad Head June 30, 2016.  Unfiltered, here to stay.

Reposted from Thursday, so it might last the whole weekend!

In the New Yorker this week, Casey Johnston wrote  about various social media platforms that wipe away photos and text after a brief period, like 24 hours.  Now you see it, now you won't.  This is much prized, Johnston writes, especially by younger posters whose identity is formed in the moment, and may be obsolete and even embarrassing before long.  This "satisfies a craving for immediacy and ephemerality, one that has lately grown to encompass all of social media." Johnston calls this the Internet of Forgetting.

Well, I am not young and that is not my Internet.  Time and its contents helplessly obsess me.  I crave scope, so I can maybe make some sense of it. The past has a different reality now that I have more of it myself. Rediscovering elements of the past and reflecting on them, connecting and reconciling, all add something necessary to my present.  Besides, these discoveries as well as re-discoveries in both their original context and in mine now, also constitute much of my entertainment.

So fortunately for me, there is also an Internet of Remembering.  There are search functions to vast data, various Wikis and especially YouTube.  On YouTube I can access (as I have recently) radio broadcasts from the 1940s, particular baseball or basketball games from--well, I haven't even explored how far back.  Interviews from the 50s, movies from the 30s (ever heard of the Torchy Blane series?  Neither had I. It's pretty good. Besides which, it may have been an inspiration for Lois Lane.)

Reading about past events in historical context, I can find documents and publications of the time online.  I can even see the faces and hear the voices, from at least FDR on.  The real stuff, including photos, not a description, reaching a hand back in time.

 There are surprising snippets of performances by legendary actors, though unfortunately not so many whole plays.  Can't find in any library an obscure treatise on ethics and psychology by one of the greatest classic science fiction authors (and least known outside the s/f community), Olaf Stapledon?  Search online, and ye shall find the entire text.  And so on.

A recent instance of personal memory...I remember one Saturday morning when I was 8.  I was watching "Space Patrol"--an episode in which Buzz Corey and crew used their "time drive" to travel to 1956.  They mentioned that they were traveling from the 30th century, when "Space Patrol" takes place.

My mother caught some of this.  She asked me if I knew what century we were living in.  I don't think I did, exactly.  She said it was the 20th century, and the Space Patrol people were coming from the 30th.  She mentioned that she used to listen to Buck Rogers on the radio, and he had traveled to the 25th century. I probably remember this because I learned something about time.

I recall Saturday mornings when there was one outer space show after another--"Tom Corbett, Space Cadet," "Rocky Jones, Space Ranger," "Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers" and "Space Patrol."  I researched these shows on the Internet in 2010 and discovered enough to figure out that they were probably all on during only one year: 1954.

  I was writing fiction based on my childhood, and for reasons having to do with other events in the chapter, I selected a certain October Saturday to revisit these shows, and how my friends and I used them in play.  Then I found a "Space Patrol" episode guide that described the show scheduled on the Saturday I had selected. From the description it seemed very likely it was the very one I remember, when my mother and I had that conversation.  (I blogged about this at the time.)

Well, it's 2016 and many "Space Patrol" episodes are now on YouTube, though not always under their original titles.  Also YouTube can be difficult to search systematically.  But the other night, I happened upon and saw this episode--the one I last saw with my mother in our living room in 1954.

But the Internet of remembering has more functions than revisiting personal memories.  Here's another YouTube show I watched recently.  I've been reading Arthur Miller lately--this latest Miller jag started when I read a roundtable discussion of contemporary playwrights, and one of them quoted Miller.  I then found on the Internet the interview with Miller that contained that quote, and more along that line.  That started me reading some of his nonfiction and lesser known plays, and re-reading his autobiography. So on a whim I went back and searched YouTube for television interviews.

I immediately found an interview he did with Charlie Rose in 1992.  When the conversation veered to that now historical moment--the 1992 election campaign and the rise of Ross Perot, a purported billionaire businessman outsider--I got chills, especially when Miller said: "When a leadership arises in a country that believes it can lead by using the darkness in men, it's probably unstoppable at a certain point."  He'd grown up watching Hitler's rise in Germany.

Does anybody--even those who lived through it, as I did-- remember what it felt like with Ross Perot in 1992?  I didn't.  From 2016, Perot now looks like an early and milder version of Trump, thanks to this interview.  There's precedent, a continuum of sorts perhaps. And people were worried then.  (Miller thought America was too diverse to fall completely for a dictator of darkness, which of course may be our salvation now.)  And to add to all this co-incidence (which means things happening at the same time, like the past in the present), Miller once described the function of playwriting as "remembering."

About many things, it doesn't pay to forget.  The Internet of Remembering is important to our survival, as well as the lives of "the olds" as Johnston says that tech folks call anybody over 30.  So in my case I guess it's "the ancients."

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Mr. Erratic Rides Again

Friday August 12, 2016: The Trumpettes are asking the RNC to open field offices in all 50 states.  Aside from whether that's strategically a good idea, they need the help. Because (as an inside source told Politico) “They finally realize they need the RNC for their campaign because, let’s face it, there is no campaign.”

That may be difficult, as Politico reports in the same piece: An RNC member said discontent with the Trump campaign has hit new heights in recent days, describing “major tumult in the building and staff problems and disagreements and RNC staff on the edge of mutiny.”

Says one R strategist at CNBC in a piece titled You Can't Overstate Panic Inside the GOP : I am deeply concerned that Trump's campaign will be an extinction-level event for the GOP, wiping out hard won electoral gains built over a decade."

Trump has confounded GOPer political professionals in ignoring television advertising, voter research, even get out the vote efforts, and these days, his choices of where to take his campaign.  His trip to Utah raised alarms only because an R candidate shouldn't have to go there, but Maine? Connecticut?  No R has won there in decades.   (It must drive the pros nuts--though it will be even worse for them if he wins.)

New NBC state polls show Hillary ahead in the battleground states of Florida (44-39), North Carolina (48-39), Virginia (46-33) and Colorado (46-32).  That's all of the states they surveyed.

Without Colorado, Virginia and Pennsylvania, says the WPost analysis, Trump can't prevail.  These polls show Clinton with double digit leads in Virginia and Colorado.  The most recent PA polls show Trump down an average of 11 points.  The NYTimes suggests that Trump may have reached his ceiling in PA and other swing states.

But according to Trump, the only way he loses PA is if the Dems cheat on election day.  No, the only way Trump wins PA is if voters are intimidated by the prospect of Trump's armed vigilantes at polling places, and they don't vote.  That's one reason this stuff isn't funny.

Sat. WPost describes the absurdity of Trump's charge, and seconds my point:"What Trump is encouraging is vigilante citizens harassing voters at polling places, asking that they prove they are who they say they are. He's asking for intimidation, explicitly: Challenge suspect voters. This is a recipe for tension, if not violence -- and the lack of voter fraud incidents reveals that there's no purpose to it. "

As Trump becomes even more erratic (he really means that Obama founded ISIL, no he doesn't it was sarcasm, maybe it's not really sarcasm, etc.; he says Hillary isn't mentally sharp while twice getting the day wrong, etc.) he prevents himself from expanding his numbers.  His fate is the result of his own hands, or mouth.

With the exception of a massively surprising set of debate performances, and/or a massively successful ad blitz at the last minute, all that can change that fate now is out of his hands: a massive Hillary meltdown, or an external event, though at this point it is hard to imagine what that would be.  Even a terrorist attack, and certainly a Russian invasion of Ukraine, probably would not help his chances. People would then be looking for a steadier hand. The channel would get switched from The Apprentice.

And there's 87 more days of this.

Hey, it's Friday and you know what that means!  The Guardian's The lies that Trump told this week.

Meanwhile I'm taking the weekend off--make that a long weekend.  Gonna get me some baseball.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Even Stranger

Thursday August 11, 2016: Today's Trumped-Up charge--that President Obama is the founder of ISIL, and Hillary Clinton the co-founder--and he insisted he means that literally--makes more "sense" (so to speak) in the context of his campaign events, as explained by the Editorial Board of the New York Times:

Donald Trump’s rallies once drew their share of benign conservatives, offbeat libertarians and plain curiosity seekers. But as time and Mr. Trump’s act have worn on, many of them have no doubt gone the way of his poll numbers. Mr. Trump’s crowds remain big and loud, but they’re angrier and more malevolent, and so is Mr. Trump.

The mood is captured in a photo--the brief display by supporters of the Confederate flag at a rally in Florida--or in a story that goes back to an earlier campaign event, when a livid Trump castigated a woman reporter, by name, and pointed to where she was standing.  The crowd got hostile, Secret Service agents escorted her out, and she's been receiving death threats ever since.

These latest crowd-pleasers about Obama and Clinton have already incited followers to even more extreme charges, as the Times editorial found on Twitter:

Another posted a faked photo of Mr. Obama in the Oval Office, with the black flag of ISIS behind him, dressed in what appears to be Islamic clerical garb, with the message, “Founder of ISIS: Barack Hussein Obama has directly and indirectly financed and armed ISIS.”  

The "good news" is that Trump is down to his core haters. (As the Times reports, Trump no longer quiets the crowd when they start chanting "Lock her up!")  That of course is also the bad news, as he and they get more extreme and violent.  This is the core, one analyst believes, that longs for authoritarian rule.  Rolling out the Nazi flag may be next.

Here's another good news/bad news story.  A letter is circulating with at least 70 signatures so far from Republicans to the Republican National Committee demanding that the RNC essentially abandon funding the Trump campaign and pay more attention to the down-ballot races that Trump's doomed candidacy endangers.

This coupled with Republican defections, especially among national security veterans and experienced administrators means that if Trump actually won, he would not have the top tier of his own party to tap to staff his government.  Given the beliefs of many of these folks that's hardly a tragedy, but it would force him to hire less experienced people, more like him.  Certain Republicans elected President in recent decades weren't the brightest bulbs, but they had access to people with the skills to run the government.  So we face the prospect of the least knowledgeable candidate in modern history, with few credible allies to do the basic work of governing.  It really would be "I alone can do this."

Okay, let's change the subject.  Back to the absurdity.  Wednesday gave us a classic.  A campaign event at which Trump went into great detail criticizing Clinton for having the father of the Orlando shooter clearly visible at her Florida campaign event.  Her claim that she had no idea he was there was not credible, Trump brayed,  nobody gets that close without the campaign knowing who he is.

Meanwhile, just behind Trump, was Mark Foley, the disgraced former congressman famous for explicit texts to underage congressional pages.  Trump at one time looked right at him, to show how it was impossible for Clinton not to know who was at her rally.

Then there is the tale Sean Hannity tells--confirmed by the Trump campaign--of Trump coming to the rescue of Marines.  Not to shock you or anything but it isn't true, and the way it isn't true is almost as absurd as the Foley folly.

Poll news: Trump trails Clinton among Latinos--by 46 points.  More than 80% disapprove of him.

More evidence of the Clinton strategy I suggested awhile back: she does local events, gets local media, mostly stays off the national radar so Trump gets all the attention.  She has, however, forcefully called him out on his Second Amendment solution, and on accusing President Obama of being the founder of ISIL.

Clinton is about to release her tax returns--why doesn't Trump?  What's he hiding? Some shady deals and partners?  Or just the amount of taxes he actually pays?  The NY Times checks with experts who say, it could very well be zero.

On a somber international note, another story about things heating up between Russia and the Ukraine.  The Bloomberg story notes that Russia often has initiated military action in August, and not coincidentally.